Has leg protection changed in the last 10 years?

I see a lot of videos of guys wearing just these slim kneepads now instead of the full shin/knee like we used to wear. I still have my 661 4x4s although they’ve been through a lot of repairs and are just kind of bulky and saggy now. Looks like Kris updated the KH percussion ones too. I don’t mind a little bit of pedal bite on my shins now and then, I’d love something more flexible, less bulky and abrasive than my old 661’s.

I definitely want knee because I’ve had some nasty crashes in the past, one even got past my 661’s, I ended up sliding like a rock-n-roll guitarist across the ground and the knee pads actually folded down in front of my shin exposing my bare kneecaps as I was sliding.

Which is exactly why I’m going from KH to Black Diamond Telekneesis pads.

I’m hoping they won’t peel or pull down but instead slide on the hard shell.
And they have to be about a million times cooler in the heat too.

Yeah I always was sweating like crazy too, then they’d get rank and stanky!

3DO and being cool and shin-free

Yes, yes, and no.

Yes, there has actually been a major technology change with a new material. There are different manufacturers but the most prominent is 3DO. It is a pretty incredible material that is lightweight and like a pillow most of the time, so it is totally flexible and malleable and breathes better than foam. When struck fast/hard it turns instantly hard, the faster it is hit, the faster it turns rigid. When rigid when being struck fast it is really hard: think of one of those lead-filled x-ray protection suits or a bullet-proof vest. And the impact absorption is better than the traditional foam pads with the added benefit of also being less bulky and totally free form.

Research has shown that the hard-shell protectors offer poor impact absorption, so you either need bulky foam or the new 3DO for high impact absorption. For comparison the foam in the traditional KH Percussion is relatively thick but maybe gives about half the knee impact protection of the top (expensive) 3DO pads.

Yes, as you noted from the videos, especially in the mountain bike scene you almost never see shin protection. I think this is because:
a) many mountain bikers tend to find the traditional long leg armour impedes pedalling, rubs and is uncomfortable (far fewer unicyclists seem to have this complaint, probably because the knee movement is less due to shorter cranks)
b) the large majority of mountain bikers are concerned about being cool and the old style leg armour is “totally uncool”. Even downhill mtb-racers with full upper body armour, a Leat neck brace and full face helmet only have knee pads and exposed shins. Muni riders tend to be less concerned about looking cool. I frequently see mtb riders with bloody shins but it seems to be the ultimate cool badge of coolness.

and No, because of maybe 30 top muni riders I can think of 29 who use full-length leg armour (KH, 661, Oneal, the same stuff from 10 years ago) and only one who uses the knee-only type (Finnspin here in the forum and he comes from Street/Flat where most of the riders shun protection completely). Maybe Finn will weigh in on the topic.

I bought a pair of the 3DO knee pads about 2 years ago and while I admit that the material is awesome and the protection for the knees superior, I still wear my KH leg armour because of those times when I have to bail and jump off the unicycle on a downhill descent and slide down an embankment and land in a fall tree with branches everywhere and my shins are usually about the first thing to make contact. I wear IXS 3DO-like elbow pads and they are incredible: confortable and allow ttal freedom of movement and I can roll all over rocks and pavement and my elbows don’t even notice it.

I haven’t looked recently, but as the knee-only protectors are “cool”, the manufactures seem to be making new designs only of knee-only, so the full leg protectors are only the old designs and thus few/none with the new 3DO materials.

I even considered pairing my old-school mtb-trial shin-only pads with the knee pads but it would still leave a gap and besides, the KH armour just works for me.

So: if you were happy with your old leg armour then just use it, no need to update (unless you’re concerned about being cool, then you of course “must” get what the cool kids are wearing which is shin-free knee-only, but you probably have to ditch the uni too to be truly cool). If you want the max protection available, try and find a 3DO full leg (but may not exist) or pair with a shin-only pad. Otherwise, the traditional KH is still good and as I said it’s hard to find “modern” full length leg armour so you then have to decide for maximum knee absorption with exposed shins/calves or full leg protection with slightly less knee impact.

I look forward to seeing Finn’s perspective on this (but on the other hand you can ignore him because he’s actually a Flat rider :wink: ).

1 Like

So I just searched and it looks like there are now some companies making long 3DO armour, e.g. Race Face Flank Leg Guards and Leatt Ext Knee & Shin Guards 2019, so there are probably a few others (I have the similar knee-only Ambush Knee Guard).

I have the IXS Carve Elbow with XmatterTM:[I]
Carve EVO+ elbow guard grey

The Carve models manage without hard shells and are therefore light and extremely comfortable to wear. They are ideal for somewhat harder use and, with the integrated XmatterTM padding concept provide high impact absorption and protection. With the Carve Evo+ we introduce product properties like exchangeable padding, structurally improved AeroMeshTM of newest generation offering a higher level of comfort and structural strength.[/I]

On the road I use knee pads with hard plastic sliders from a skate boarder protection set. Been sliding down tarmac at over 20 kph on them. Also use the elbow guards.

When I am fooling about on the trials uni I add hard shell hockey shin guards. They are very effective and I hardly notice I have them on. Got to get ones that fit right though.

BTW I love my Hillbilly gloves.

Mine are just old and were a size too big to start with, I’m tall but my legs are skinny. And they’re stretched out and funky. I’ve always had my eye on the KH ones maybe I’ll just pick some up when I get my new uni in a few weeks.

I’ve never ridden with elbow pads of any kind, always pulse gloves but nothing elbow. In the past I always have had problems with them sliding off or being generally annoying. But I’m thinking of just adding in at least something basic to protect from minor impacts and abrasion. I like those carve pads those look nice.

Thanks for including me into your top 30 riders I guess. :wink: I really can’t compare to 10 year old pads, since back then I was a trials/street/flat rider and only wore shinpads when learning new tricks. But as someone who went from wearing no pads to now wearing helmet, gloves kneepads and recently a back protector (although that’s included in my backpack), I do have a few points on pads. Since I don’t have a lot of money either, it’s also a guide to budget protection:

Buy good quality stuff. Not only does it protect better (at least according to reviews and testing from MTB magazines), but it also just fits better. If you buy cheap stuff, you will buy it twice, or worse, go back to not wearing it. I used to hate wearing kneepads when competitions forced me to wear them, but those were supermarket quality. Now that I have well fitting ones, I find myself not even thinking about them. I’ve never found KH leg armour to be particularily good. (I always say there are brands focussing completely on making the best protective equipment possible, and then there is a unicycle manufacturer also making some pads. ) Also, kneepads go under your pants, not over them, they move around less there, and stay attached better during a fall. (Took me longer than I’d like to admit to figure that out).

As mentioned, I usually don’t ride with shinpads for muni. I occasionally get a nice pedalbite in my calves, but I figure I can live with that. Hitting my shin on rocks or branches doesn’t seem to happen to me, that’s why I stick to knee only. I have ION k-pacts which are fantastic. I also don’t wear elbow pads, and have only really wished for ones once or twice. Again, I seem to be less bothered by cuts and bruises than others.

If your resources are limited, spend your money where it matters. I used to be guilty of riding with a cheap skate helmet, but came to the realization that spending 100$ on potentially saving your brain from damage is not really much. I ride with super cheap gloves, but a good helmet and now a back protector, because I can live with some cuts on my hand if things go wrong, but not with brain damage or spine injuries. It just takes one pointy rock in an unfortunate place.

If I had to make a list, I’d say:

Helmet, kneepads, gloves
(Shoulder/ankle etc.)

Order of importance from most important on top to more optional at the bottom, amount of money to spend/importance of high quality decreasing from left to right.
Of course, injuries, riding style, terrain etc. can make priorities change, but that is the list I’d make for me.

Buying ugly colours at the end of the season seems to work well, I got both my helmet, my kneepads and my backprotector/backpack that way. Unfortunately, you can’t reasonably buy used protective equipment, so to get good quality, the last seasons stuff is your only way to save money.

Thanks for all the input. I looked into some pads and I’m going to try out those k-pacts. If my shins get overly beat up I’ll keep the pads for more mellow rides and go back to something with shin for technicalish stuff. I noticed the also make a shin-guard that when combo’d together it turns the k-pacts into a full knee and shin. But it seems it’s not sold very many places, maybe not much demand for it.

I’m curious what your backpack is. I always ride with spine protection and full-face on my motorcycles for the same reason. I’ll be rockin the full-face most of the time on my muni too since I like my teeth and I do have a nasty habit of smashing my face into things.

I wear a camelback K.U.D.U. 18. The rise of enduro mountainbiking has given us plenty of options for backpacks with an integrated back protector. Evoc, Dakine, Leatt, and even Deuter also offer protector backpacks now. It doesn’t quite cover as much as a dedicated back protector (there is a bigger gap inbetween the bottom of the helmet and the start of the protector), but I think for most of my riding that’s fine, and certainly a lot better than nothing. Since I was always carrying a backpack anyways, I figured those are a pretty great option.

The worst thing about buying pads is always that no one carries them locally, so you can’t really ever try a bunch of them on. Which sucks, because the best one among a range of pads from quality brands are probably the ones that fit you the best…

Awesome I’ll check some out. I always have a camelbak on so if I can find something small I’d be up for it. I don’t want to be wearing an extra piece of gear, I was wearing nothing before so a little extra protection can’t hurt.

Yeah slim pickins in the shops around here, unless you live by a bike park or something, then they might have a few you could try.

Yeah, although I have 2 heavy-duty dedicated back protectors from downhill mountain biking, I wear my Deuter Attack 28 with integrated back protector for almost all my muni tours and I think it is great: I need a backpack anyway, the protection is pretty good (probably over 80% of a true back protector) and it’s comfortable. The only thing really missing is shoulder/front chest pretection, but if you need that, then you need a heavy-duty full armour suit (but then can only wear if for lift-assisted downhill as it’s otherwise too bulky and hot).

For Muni I wear:
head- Giro Hex heklmet
Back- backpack w/ waist strap loosely packed w/ extra clothes.
Hands- Hill Billy gloves (work great but fit is way loose, i should’ve gone down to small from my usual medium/large
shins- 661 4x4w/ knees cut off (often slid down exposing my knees b4 cutting them)
Knee- hard shell skate pads similar to these w/ good padding & can put on w/ taking my shoes off (seems like most U put on like a sock and “say” U can put over shoes, but apparently not mine). what was imp to me: hard shell knee, hard or soft shin guard, good padding on both, can put on w/o taking off shoes, not rediculusly hot. my braces protect the back of my lower legs.
elbow- Fox Launch elbow guards. for me i think elbow only would be fine, i can deal w/ some scratches, all i think these pads protected me from in UPDs.
Edit: forgot to include 661 Bomber padded shorts (also fit loose) and cycling shorts but I anyways have to wear the latter no mater what type of riding I do.

I’ve been looking for some armored undershorts. I changed from size 34/35 waist to 29 so my old troy lee ones don’t fit anymore. Same with my outer shell shorts. Good idea cutting the knees off of the 661’s. That part has always been more or less useless for me, if I strap it down tight it’s too restrictive, and too loose it just folds down or out of the way in a crash.

Talking about tricks without breaking the bank, I had great success using volleyball soft knee pads under my knee/shin guard.
The fit has always been great from the under-knee down but sometimes loose around the knee.
Now, the padding allows for a snuggle fit without restricting my motion. Worth trying as a $15 fix if you like your existing pads.

As soon as I get out of my lazy/lucky status quo, the 3Do and G-Form sounds like great stuff

I ended up going with the k-pacts and the kudu 18 + some fox titan race shorts. They’re all perfect! I also don’t hit my shins much on anything, some scrapes here and there but I sweat SO MUCH that the trade-off is worth it just to stay a bit cooler. Most of the brush I’m riding through on overgrown trails is soft or has been dead so long it just breaks away so it’s not of much concern. Thanks for all the help everyone! I’m probably going to pick up some of those carve elbow pads too when I start getting too bold for my abilities.